Intolerance is blasphemy

Aasia Masih’s blasphemy case is not just gaining momentum, it is leaving a torrent of controversy in its wake, where extremism and draconian views are being upheld instead of endorsing basic human rights and tolerance. After being sentenced to death by a district sessions court in Nankana Sahib, Aasia’s case has become the poster-child issue for civil society, private NGOs and the international community, all of whom are appalled by this medieval and harsh punishment because of a controversial law. However, it is saddening to see that some of our politicians are coddling the mullahs who have found in Aasia’s case a reason to once again froth at the mouth.

Babar Awan has said that the blasphemy law can only be altered or repealed “over his dead body”. It sounds as though the federal law minister is taking some direct lessons from the extreme right and intolerant hate mongers who have been directing our society towards the brink of anarchy due to their regressive ideas about religion. In the same vein, activists of different religious parties including the Jamaat-e-Islami, unleashed their anger at the accused and even Governor Salmaan Taseer who is campaigning for the president to pardon the poor Christian woman. They protested against any possible pardon and swore that if such a compromise took place, there would be a countrywide backlash. For the law minister to voice the same message puts him in the same league as these venomous mullahs, many of whom are responsible for riling up angry mobs and murderous vendettas against the minorities. It is unfathomable that a man of Mr Awan’s standing in the government should come off as no better than a hate spewing cleric himself.

The last thing Pakistan needs right now is any vindication granted to the clerics. It is these people who have condoned the extra-judicial murder of anyone accused — many falsely — of blasphemy. It is these clerics who support Taliban-like causes and even outrightly provide ideological and, at times, strategic support to the militants who are ravaging our nation. If members of the ruling party side with their inhumane verdicts on religious matters, little hope is left for our minorities and the cultivation of a society that protects the rights of its citizens. Someone needs to knock some sense into those who mollycoddle the intolerant. They have done enough harm to Pakistan already – Dailytimes